By on August 12, 2019

1984 Dodge 600 in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOnce Lee Iacocca’s front-wheel-drive K-cars brought Chrysler back from near-death and into profitability, the platform became the basis of a sprawling family of K-related relatives. One of the earliest spinoffs was the E Platform, a lengthened K that gave us the Chrysler E-Class/New Yorker, the Plymouth Caravelle, and the Dodge 600. Just to confuse matters, the Dodge 600 coupe remained a true K, sibling to the Dodge Aries.

That’s what we’ve got here, and this Denver 600 coupe has some stories to tell. (Read More…)

By on November 19, 2018

1982 Dodge 400 in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Lee Iacocca’s original Chrysler K Platform spawned an incomprehensible tangle of K-related offspring between the 1981 and 1995 model years, but only a few U.S.-market models were true K-Cars: the Chrysler LeBaron, Plymouth Reliant, Dodge Aries, Dodge 600, and Dodge 400.

Of these, the 400 has been the hardest for me to find in the self-service wrecking yards I frequent; in fact, this is the first junkyard Dodge 400 I’ve photographed. (Read More…)

By on September 24, 2018

1982 Chrysler LeBaron in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

While Chrysler developed endless variations of the original K Platform, adding branches to the K-car Family Tree through 1995, only the Dodge Aries/400/600, Plymouth Reliant, and Chrysler LeBaron were true Ks. The K-cars saved Chrysler from near-certain bankruptcy, with the first Dodge and Plymouth versions rolling off showroom floors as 1981 models; the LeBaron came the following year, and the luxurious LeBaron convertible stood tall as the K-car King.

Here’s a well-preserved 1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible in a Denver-area self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on December 26, 2017

1989 Chrysler New Yorker Mark Cross in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Ford really set the standard for designer-edition luxury cars during the late 1970s, with the Lincoln Mark V available with Superfly-grade styling by Bill Blass, Givenchy, Emilio Pucci, and Cartier. The competition scoured the world for competing designers, with even AMC getting into the act, and Chrysler signed up Mark Cross for some glitzed-up luxury cars based on stretched variants of the aging K Platform.

Here’s a 1989 Mark Cross Edition New Yorker Landau, spotted in a Denver self-service yard a couple of weeks ago. (Read More…)

By on October 16, 2017

1985 Chrysler LeBaron in Arizona wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
While Chrysler made a bewildering array of vehicles based on the staving-off-bankruptcy K Platform, only four models could be called pure K-cars: the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Dodge 400, and Chrysler LeBaron. All the rest, from the Town & Country minivan to the Imperial, were based on mutated K hardware.

Here’s an example of a fully luxed-up LeBaron convertible, featuring body trim made from the stately trees of the Magical Petrochemical Forest, spotted in a Phoenix self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , LH front view, © 2017 Murilee Martin

The original K-platform-based Chrysler minivans, built for the 1984 through 1995 model years, sold like mad, helped kill the station wagon, and forced the competition to get serious about selling minivans in the United States. Buyers could get the 1984-95 four-cylinder Caravan, Voyager, or Town & Country with a five-speed manual transmission, though few did.

Here’s the first 5-speed second-generation Chrysler minivan I have ever found in a wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2017

1987 Plymouth Caravelle in California junkyard, RH RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

As recently as five years ago, you could get a good sense of the width and height of the Chrysler K-Car family tree by just walking the rows of a big American self-service wrecking yard. You would see at least one early Aries or Reliant and probably a few late-K-family New Yorkers or Acclaim/Spirits. Not any more. The Crusher has eaten and digested most of the K Family, so I felt that this rare Plymouth Caravelle sighting in a San Francisco Bay Area yard was noteworthy. (Read More…)

By on February 13, 2017

1987 Dodge 600 in Denver wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

For most of the 1980s and well into the 1990s, most cars made by Chrysler were members of the many-branched K-Car family tree. In the early years, the K was sold as an all-American economy car for the frugal, but Lee Iacocca had his eye on stealing some sales from European luxury marques. Perhaps a K made to look something like a Mercedes-Benz would do the job? (Read More…)

By on September 26, 2016

1995 Dodge Dakota in Colorado Junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The plenitude of vehicles based on the Chrysler K Platform helped the company bounce back from its humiliating 1979 near-bankruptcy and government bailout, and the modern overhead-cam four-cylinder engine Chrysler developed for the K was a big part of that success. We think of that 2.2/2.5 as a transverse-front-wheel-drive-only engine, but Chrysler made a longitudinal version for the rear-wheel-drive Dakota pickup.

Here’s a very rare 2.5/5-speed example I saw in a Denver-area yard recently. (Read More…)

By on August 22, 2016

1989 Plymouth Reliant America in Minnesota junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

In last week’s Junkyard Find, I shared the first discarded BMW E30 I have photographed after nearly a decade of writing about junkyard vehicles. Yes, the E30 was a fine automobile (though right-thinking car experts recognize that its Alfa Romeo Milano competitor was faster, cheaper, and had a much better-sounding engine) and we should take a moment to appreciate this important piece of German automotive history.

Right, now that we’re done with that, let’s admire a piece of automotive history I find much more fascinating: an example of the final model year of Chrysler’s company-rescuing K-Car, photographed in a muggy, buggy, cocklebur-overgrown Minneapolis self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2016

1982 Dodge Aries Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin

Much as members of the Mopar Jihad don’t want to admit it, Chrysler took a bailout — in the form of government-backed loans — from Uncle Sam in 1979. This worked out pretty well for everyone involved, because the then-futuristic K-Cars that Chrysler developed out of desperation turned out to be both smash sales hits and the basis for most cars put out by Chrysler for the following decade.

The K Family Tree had many branches, but only the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Chrysler LeBaron, and Dodge 400 were true K-Cars. You won’t see many of the original Ks these days, but the patient junkyard crawler will find a rare survivor now and then.

Here’s an early Aries wagon that I spotted in a Denver self-serve yard a couple of weeks ago. (Read More…)

By on May 2, 2016

1984 Chrysler Laser XE Turbo in California Junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The K-platform-based Dodge Daytona was built for the 1984 through 1993 model years and sold pretty well; we’ve seen a few of them in this series. The Daytona’s Chrysler-badged sibling, the Laser (not to be confused — though many do — with the Mitsubishi Eclipse-based Plymouth Laser), was sold only for the 1984-1986 model years and is a bit harder to find. (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2016

1985 Dodge Daytona in California Junkyard, © 2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

After the near-miraculous success of the K platform dug Chrysler out of the pit of its near-bankruptcy and controversial government bailout (no, not that bailout, the earlier one), Lee Iacocca led the company to produce a bewildering number of vehicles based on the K. Chrysler had some sporty machinery based on the Simca-derived Omnirizon (not to mention some hot rebadged Mitsubishis), but the Dodge Daytona and its Chrysler Laser sibling were the bread-and-butter factory hot rods of the 1980s and a bit beyond.

Here’s an ’85 I spotted at a now-defunct Los Angeles-area yard a while back. (Read More…)

By on January 11, 2016

00 - 1991 Dodge Shadow in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The Dodge Shadow was one of many, many versions of the Chrysler-saving K Platform, and it sold in fairly large quantities before being replaced by the Neon. As recently as five years ago, Shadows and their Plymouth Sundance siblings were among the most numerous Chryslers in American wrecking yards, but massive numbers of Sebrings have replaced them nowadays. I ignore most of these cars when I see them, but I can’t resist photographing examples with excessively 1990s tape stripes and decals or super-stripper no-option packages.

Today we’ll be looking at a car that puts turbocharging, overwrought 1990s tape graphics, a convertible top, and fire damage all in one K-car package. (Read More…)

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